In the SEC, the overall sentiment is the conference is competitive to the point where the majority of contests are decided by a critical sequence.
Florida has seen more than its fair share — who could forget Will Grier’s pass to Antonio Callaway against Tennessee, or Austin Appleby’s 98-yard touchdown pass to Tyrie Cleveland at LSU?
In both of the team’s losses this season, the Gators have been within several plays of altering the result, but they haven’t seen a late play define the outcome. The Tigers, who come into Gainesville looking to once again play spoiler on Homecoming, have accepted defeat on the final play in multiple instances in 2018, the most recent of which came this past Saturday in the team’s 15-14 loss to Kentucky. The Wildcats rallied from a 14-3 deficit before winning on an untimed down on the final play in Columbia, Missouri. And several weeks earlier, the Tigers played one of the more eccentric games this season in a different Columbia.
In a game featuring multiple weather delays and a mud-soaked field, Missouri held a 35-34 lead over South Carolina with 1:18 left to play. But Gamecocks QB Michael Scarnecchia led a 53-yard drive to set up Parker White’s 33-yard game-winning field goal.
So, although the Tigers arrive winless in SEC play and with a 4-4 overall record, things could just as easily have gone much differently. As such, those in charge of UF’s preparation are imploring the team to regard the Tigers as if they have six wins as well.
“They lost on the last play of the game and at South Carolina in the pouring rain it was the last play of the game. Every game they haven’t been successful, but they’ve been in till the end,” Florida offensive line coach John Hevesy said. “They’re going to fight. Last season, where they started off not very well and won six straight. They learned how to fight, and when you see them on film that’s exactly who they are. They’re tough kids that play hard.”
Hevesy is spot on that Missouri finished on a high note after a mid-October loss to Georgia in 2017. Now, if UF hopes to do the same, they’ll have to go through a team that’s been there and done that.
“We understand that we’re going to have to play well, and you know it’s really about being a physical team. It’s about preparation, it’s about attention to detail, making sure that we hone in on the little things to make sure we can be exact in what we’re doing,” Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said, “because when you face a team as talented as they are, you got to make sure that you got everything covered from the standpoint of knowing what to do, how to do it and getting ready to play. So we understand that we got to play, and they’re pretty talented.”